NEW YORK — QVC is traveling to Washington to mark President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration this month _ and is bringing along plenty of coins, stamps, jewelry and even a small handbag to sell.
The retail network has already sold more than 100,000 items related to Obama's election and sees the inauguration as an opportunity to reach far beyond the group of people regularly interested in political collectibles.
"Frankly, if we were not at the inauguration, we would feel like we were not doing our job," said Doug Rose, vice president of multichannel programming for the retail giant, which is available in 94 million American homes and had sales totaling $7.4 billion in 2007.
QVC will show portions of the parade and conduct interviews with spectators, then air live on the night of Jan. 20 from the Creative Coalition's inaugural ball. Host Leah Williams will be decked out in an inaugural gown.
Obama's inauguration has attracted plenty of interest from TV networks, not only the traditional broadcast and cable news outlets, but specialized venues such as BET and Nickelodeon that don't normally pay attention to live political events.
"We're trying to give the audience a flavor of what the event is like, from the event," Rose said. "We will try to give them a sense of the electricity in the air."
Among the items QVC has been selling since the election are a Barack Obama stamp collection, with stamps from Liberia, Sierra Leone, Grenada, St. Vincent and The Grenadines ($38.88). One set has an Obama-Biden half dollar coin and a 1939 stamp depicting George Washington taking the first oath of office ($23.75). An Obama throw blanket is marked down from $41 to $36.84.
Several products are set to debut within the next few weeks. For $200, a shopper can have a coin set with each of the 44 presidents on a South Dakota quarter. A gold presidential pocket watch with Obama's image will sell for $90. A coin and stamp set commemorating Martin Luther King Day and Obama's inauguration is $20. And QVC will also sell a portfolio of newspaper front pages from inauguration day.
Some of QVC's designers are at work, too, making a simulated pearl necklace and a small handbag.
QVC, which began operation in 1986, sold inauguration-related items in 1997, 2001 and 2005. Only in 1997 did the network televise from Washington.
Weeks before the event, the company has nearly reached its previously best sales figures marking a presidential transition, from 1997, and is certain to go well past that standard this year.
QVC's competitor, the Home Shopping Network, isn't going to Washington, but it will telecast eight one-hour specials the weekend before the inauguration hawking medallions, porcelain plates, pocket watches and the like. HSN offered an Obama coin set the weekend after the election, with $3 million in sales over a few hours, spokesman Brad Bohnert said.
And they're not the only places to find Obama memorabilia, either. ShopNBC is offering Obama coin sets and throw blankets. The New York Times Store offers framed photographs, a framed copy of the front page announcing Obama's election victory and an Obama jigsaw puzzle.
NBC is also selling a DVD compilation of Obama speech highlights and NBC News coverage of the campaign.